Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Convergys deal: Vote today

Secure the jobs

Cincinnati City Council should give its approval today to the $63.4 million incentive deal that will keep Convergys' headquarters downtown.

Council should approve the deal not just for the current or future jobs Convergys will provide - which are exactly the high-paying "knowledge-worker" jobs the city and state need - but also for the jobs Convergys supports. These include the law firms, accountants and other suppliers who depend on work from this city's headquarters companies. "Once you start losing headquarters," says Cincinnati Business Committee executive director Laura Long, "the city has to raise taxes. Once you raise taxes, you're in a spiral because you can't compete."

The package of matching offers by Ohio and Cincinnati are needed to counter Kentucky's upfront cash bid to lure Convergys to a Boone County site.

Neither Mayor Charlie Luken nor council relish being snared in a two-state bidding contest, but council shouldn't lose sight of the fact that roughly half of the incentives depend on Convergys doubling its Cincinnati work force over 15 years, investing $100 million in the Atrium One building on Fourth Street. And, after 15 years, the earnings tax credits end. From then on, tax revenues from all the extra jobs fully enrich city coffers. Both Cincinnati and Ohio deals impose penalties if Convergys fails to create the new jobs or doesn't keep its operations here for at least 30 years.

Fifth Third Bank Chairman George A. Schaefer Jr., who co-chaired the mayor's economic development task force, said if the city isn't able to keep large employers downtown, all the other reforms proposed by the task force to attract new businesses won't work. It's not just downtown. Workers for Convergys and those support firms live in and stabilize neighborhoods throughout this region.

Unfortunately, the collateral damage from this deal is Norwood, which stands to lose hundreds of jobs expected to move to Convergys' consolidated location at Atrium One. Norwood's loss only reconfirms the need for companies and governments here to unite to minimize brutal bidding wars and the "ripple effect" from relocations within the region. But council's first duty is its vote today to keep Convergys here for years to come.

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